Does COVID-19 affect outreach ministries?
COVID-19 has affected many institutions financially, and the church and its members have not been immune, leaving the question: are outreach ministries also suffering from this disease?
From the point of view of two religious leaders that SEARCHLIGHT sought out recently, it seems that the church is indeed facing challenges, but its outreach activities continue to endure.
The lifeline of the church, physical services, were suspended as COVID-19 gripped the world in a pandemic which has so far taken more than 408,000 lives.
As the world’s economy, and that of the nation’s, bows under the weight of the effects, many continue to suffer after losing their jobs or having their wages reduced; and these persons make up the members of the churches.
Churches have resumed services, including the Anglican church which returned in early May after suspending services at the end of March. The congregation of the Catholic church most recently returned to their pews last weekend after also breaking in March.
While this may be so, social distancing requirements still limit the amount that can sit in a church, depending on its size, and from indications, attendance in some churches has waned.
Bishop Gerard County C.S.Sp of the Roman Catholic Church revealed “thanks be to God, given the difficult situation we did not have to cut anything as yet, in terms of our charitable outreaches. We were able to do that.”
However, he also disclosed that he has had to make a financial appeal because the church was in a “difficult situation”,
attributed to the suspension of masses. However, he noted that persons have responded to this cry for help.
Furthermore, it has become necessary for the Catholic church to reintroduce from the month of June “our stewardship envelopes – that means people put a monthly donation for the upkeep of the diocese.”
“We know that these are difficult times, we are not forcing anybody, whatever people would like to donate for the upkeep of the Diocese…” the Bishop said, speaking about the envelopes.
“The church depends on the charity and generosity of its flock to carry out its mission,” County explained.
The Rt Reverend C Leopold Friday, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of the Windward Islands, revealed that the Anglican church has a lot of outreach ministries generally.
“We supply financial and economic support while promoting dignified living. We try to help people who are in situations where they have become unemployed, find it difficult to meet their needs,” he listed.
They also assist emotionally and socially by providing counselling and giving guidance to parents and families.
“And all that has been happening as people seek to respond to COVID-19 because it has impacted upon us in different ways,” the Bishop explained, adding that they respond in the best of their ability to help persons.
He also noted that he knows some parishes have parish registers, and the church has been contacting people “to give them words of encouragement at this time.”
While saying they would continue to provide services to the best of their abilities, Friday disclosed, “…Although at this time the church itself has also been challenged because of the suspension of services, and the fact that we can’t have large gatherings.”
“…We have activities to raise funds, we’re not able to do that over this period and many persons have lost their jobs, businesses have closed down, and so forth and many of them are members of the church,” which affects the church being able to carry out its ministry as it used to, he continued.
The Bishop reiterated, “we are still trying to see how best we can respond to the needs of people to the best of our ability at this time.”
Also in his conversation with SEARCHLIGHT, which took place on June 3, Friday noted that the feast of Pentecost had just been celebrated, which signified the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and that it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the church is enabled to carry out its ministry.
“We believe that as we experience the pandemic, as we continue to journey during this time, that empowered by the Holy Spirit, God would enable us to manage, to live with, and to overcome whatever challenges there are,” the Rt Reverend stated.